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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  April 27, 2016 10:00am-12:01pm EDT

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on c-span2.
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the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. almighty god, the fountain of all wisdom, nothing is impossible to you. forgive us when we sometimes have anxiety about the future, because we fail to remember what you have done in the past. thank you for your wisdom that guides us on life's journey, empowering us to walk with integrity.
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today, enlighten our senators. show them your ways; teach them your paths. may your great love so encompass them that discord and confusion will be dispelled. lord, let your peace and tranquility guard their hearts and minds. deal graciously with them, encouraging them to cast their cares upon you receiving your loving mercy and protection. we pray in your holy name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag
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of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that notwithstanding rule 22, the cloture vote with respect to the alexander substitute amendment number 3801 occur at 12:00 noon today, that the cloture vote on h.r. 2028 following the dissption of the substitute amendment and that the 10:30 second-degree filing
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deadline for both the amendment and the underlying bill be at 11:00 a.m. this morning. the presiding officer: is there objection? the democratic leader? mr. reid: thank you, mr. president. reserving the right to object. mr. president, we have no problem moving the vote to noon, but i want everyone to be clear that we'd be happy to have a vote to pass this bill right now. the only thing holding up the bill is of course the amendment of which the presiding officer is well aware of. we would be happy to move right now with the amendments that have been agreed to, the managers' package we agreed to the night before last and finish this bill now. soy have no objection -- so i have no objection. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, we've seen important progress in this appropriations season with the committee reporting out one-third of the 12 funding
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bills already, each with unanimous us. this appropriations measure will have positive impacts across the country and promote american priorities like energy innovation and waterways infrastructure, commerce, and public safety. it's the product of much research and deliberation. it shows what can be choafed -- achieved with return to regular order. we know that it wouldn't have been possible without the appropriations cmitttt and the energy and water development subcommittee. it's good to see this significant headway we've made thus far with continued cooperation, we can pass the first appropriations bill of the season and continue our important work to move through more of these individual funding measures.
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now, mr. president, on a totally different issue, it's been six years since the flawed health care policies of obamacare were signed into law. six years later my office continues to receive stories from kentuckians who are reeling from the negative effects of this partisan law. take, for instance, the heartbreaking story from one middle class husband and father of two from covington who suffered a heart attack at the age of 42. under obamacare, this kentucky dad has seen his health care premium triple and his deductible increase to, as he put it, a ridiculous amount. he says he struggles to afford his medicine which he says costs upwards of $1,000 a month. as he and his family struggle to survive week to week. put simply he says obamacare is a terrible blight on the health care system that has resulted in more expensive, watered down unaffordable health care for the
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middle class. unfortunately too many american families have had similar experiences under this administration's partisan law because if the start, this health care policy was built on a mountain, a mountain of higher costs and broken promises which only seem to grow larger by the day. when it comes to obamacare, costs in the exchange are higher than its champions expected. a recent study found that obamacare exchange individual market enrollees experience higher medical costs than people insured through employer-provided coverage, 19% higher in 2014 and 22% higher last year. when it comes to obamacare, it simply does not work like its champions promised either. as a result we've seen increasing number of insurers pull out of the obamacare market place all together. just last week we learned that the nation's largest health
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insurer will join the list withdrawing from all but a handful of states next year, including kentucky. what it means is that americans in my home state and across much of the nation are likely to face even fewer health insurance options. according to one analysis, if this insurer withdrew from the exchange market all together, nearly for million marketplace enrollees would be left with only two insurers while more than a million more would be left with only one. but fewer choices could also mean even higher premium costs. as one expert put it, either insurers will drop out or insurers will raise premiums. this only adds to the many kentuckians would have already seen their premiums spike under obamacare. like the retired police officer whose premium increased to nearly $5,000 a year which he simply cannot afford or the kentuckian whose rate tripled
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leaving him uninsured and forced to pay a fine at the end of the year. now, not surprisingly, the insurance industry's chief spokesman who is a former top obama administration official, by the way, is bracing the public for even more premium increases in the year to come. and the administration's answer? more money from taxpayers. whether they call it a risk corridor or a premium subsidy or reinsurance mechanisms, the source is still the same, the american taxpayer. so the bottom line is this. americans continue to be unfairly hurt by health law -- by a health law that was forced on them through back room deals and is literally littered with broken promises. too many have seen their premiums and deductibles skyrocket. too many have suffered from tax
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increases and lost coverage, and now too many are set to face even fewer choices and significant price hikes in the year to come. middle-class families have endured the broken promises and failures of obamacare for far too long. it's past time for democrats to own up to the many disappointments of this law and help us move toward better health care policies for our country. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that following leader remarks the time till noon be equally divided between the two managers or their designees. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. reid: thank you. it's too bad my republican friends continue to attack obamacare. it's working.
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more team are getting access to health care and they're healthier. more people are healthier because they can go see a doctor or go to the hospital when they need to the republicans need to get over it and accept the fact that obamacare is here to say. if they're so concerned about it, they have no plan of their own, maybe they could give us some ideas of how it should be changed. we hear nothing other than criticism of a program that is doing so much to change america forever. mr. president, i want to take just a minute today to talk about the tragedy that struck the capitol police yesterday. 5:00 a.m. the united states capitol police officer pat milham was working in the gym and suffered a massive heart attack. those in the gym at the time rushed to his aid. they used a defibrillator three times before his heart started beating again. he was then flown to a nearby
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hospital and had surgery late last night. he was revived and that's very, very good. he's a 28-year veteran of the capitacapitol police. he served in a variety positions, academy instructor, and even worked as a hostage negotiation team. he's an outstanding police officer by all accounts. the department recognizes his performance and honored him with the service medal commemorate -- commendation award. he's well liked by all of his colleagues and has a great sense of humor. he's currently a member of the department's mountain bike patrol we've seen around here. not a lot of mountains but there are a lot of hills around this capitol complex. he's in very good shape. that's what you have to be to be a patrol officer on a bicycle. that's what makes what happened yesterday so shocking. i can't imagine what a difficult time it's been for pat and his
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wife, heidi, and their two children are in college, schuyler and is a -- scieler and savannah. heidi recently retired from the capitol police. i hope they know the entire family offers him a speedy recovery and my personal admiration of all the capitol police for all they do and all the personnel that make the capitol police jobs functional. we look forward to having officer milham back in full health very quickly. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of h.r. 2028 which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar h.r. h.r. 2028, an act on -- related
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agencies for the fiscal year september 30, 2016 and for other purposes. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quor correspondent. the presiding officer: the time between the two managers will be divided between the two managers or their designees. mr. cornyn: unless we talk about it, people won't know what happened. but we've been talking about how productive we've been able to be over the last year and a half and actually advancing legislation that benefits the american people, which is of course the reason why they sent us here. i say we've been talking about it because if we don't talk about it, maybe they'll never learn. even if we talk about it, they won't believe it some of them. we need to talk about what we're doing here for the people wreep. of course nothing happens in the senate or in congress or in washington unless it's done on a bipartisan basis. but leadership matters.
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leadership matters. and we've seen with the new republican majority in the 114th congress under senator mcconnell and speaker ryan now that we've actually been able to pass some important legislation. this in -- this includes legislation to combat the epidemic of opioid abuse throughout our nation, and we passed an important piece of legislation called the comprehensive addiction and recovery act to deal with that. but i want to talk about another aspect of the prescription drug problem or issue and reflect on some bipartisan legislation we passed six years ago with obviously people on both sides of the aisle in both chambers when we came together to tackle another issue related to prescription drugs, and this had to do with the fact that many prescription drugs, those prescriptions are filled. they will sit in medicine
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cabinets, perhaps are subject to pilfering by people for whom they were not prescribed, and/or disposed of in a way that is bad for the environment. and we found that this is particularly a problem among teenagers, the growing use of prescription drugs for nonmedical uses. and we know the consequences when people take drugs that have not been prescribed for them for recreational or other purposes that unfortunately their consequences can be fatal. we noticed that some site and local law enforcement agencies had success with drug takeback programs, programs that allowed people to turn their leftover prescription drugs limiting the chances that these drugs would get into the hands of someone who doesn't need them or would -- they would hurt them. i remember in austin, texas, shortly after we passed this legislation 2010 going to one of
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the locations where the takeback program was in use and literally you had people bringing garbage sacks full of prescription drugs that they had in their home and in some instances they had a relative that had passed away and had been ill and all of these prescription drugs were just sitting there and they didn't really know what to do with them. do you flush them down the toilet? do you put them in the garbage can? what do you do? well, fortunately we provided a mechanism for people to deal with these unneeded drugs. we focused our efforts on making it easier for federal agencies to take and dispose of some of the most dangerous drugs, including opioids and finding a way to encourage more communities to do the same. the legislation we passed in 2010 was the secure and responsible drug disposal act, and it gave law enforcement
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officials the flexibility they need to be able to build out these programs. and like most legislation nobody's ever heard of, it passed congress unanimously but that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile just because we didn't fight like cats and dogs about it. and i'm thankful this week we'll be able to high lie the importance of legislation like this to address our nation's prescription drug epidemic. today folks on capitol hill can hand in any unused prescription medication they have as part of federal takeback day. that's today. and on saturday we'll get a chance to see this in action across the country through the national prescription drug takeback day. takeback days are not only highlight the problem of prescription drug abuse, they help local communities take control of the problem. by rallying the community to turn in drugs that are either unwanted or expired and to make sure that they are safely
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disposed of. i look forward to going back home to texas for national takeback day this weekend, where i'll have a chance to join local law enforcement and city leaders in dallas and in austin and walgreen's pharmacy, all working together to help highlight this important initiative. and i would encourage all of my colleagues to do the same. separately, mr. president, i wanted to talk a moment about another matter of importance, and that is the importance of our nation's relationship with our neighbor to the south. now, coming from texas with 1200 miles of common border with mexico, i often will observe that this is a relationship from which we cannot get a divorce. we are bound together as countries, contiguous -- contiguous countries and our well-being depends in part on how well mexico is doing. we know mexico like the united states has its own unique challenges. but as the largest exporting state in the country, texas has
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exported $95 billion worth of goods to mexico just last year, $95 billion to mexico just last year. in fact, mexico is our largest export market, and it's the united states' second largest export market. the truth of the matter is mexico and its economy is very important to our economy and how we do as a country. and in today's globalized world, we must continue to support our economic partnership with mexico and find ways to build on it and certainly not do anything to undermine it. that's why i prioritized efforts like the cross border trade and enhancement act, legislation i've introduced with my colleague in the house, a democrat by the name of henry quahair which i worked a lot on trade related issues.
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the bill will help reduce wait times at our border ports of entry. i bet most people don't realize that the single largest land port of entry into the united states is lore ray dough, texas. -- loredo, texas. when you come to loredo with me, you'll ste tractor-trailers -- you'll see tractor-trailers stacked up trying to get across the bridge engaged in trade that helps support american jobs and helps our economy. so it's important that we move goods and people more efficiently and safely and legally and grow our trading relationships with partners like mexico. the fact of the matter is six million american jobs depend on national trade with mexico, things we send there and things they send here. of course, because of location, a lot of the jobs that used to go to china because they could produce things in a manufacturing process that were cheaper because of lower wages
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and the like, because of the benefits of the proximity of mexico, many of the micheela doras and other manufacturing in mexico are integral. our relationship with mexico as complicated as it can sometimes be goes well beyond impressive trade statistics. mexico is a key partner for the united states as we work to keep our country safe and to help them deal with the challenges they have from a law enforcement standpoint. mexico is critical to our joint goals of countering and interdicting illegal substances entering the united states across the border. and we know the supply is huge and unfortunately the demand in the united states is huge, and our mexican friends always remind us of that. every time we're critical of them, they say, well, if it weren't for the demand in the united states, the supply
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wouldn't be there, and they have a point. but we've also worked with mexico in trying to stem the tide of illegal immigration. i know most people don't -- they may not quite accept that, but the fact of the matter is mexico has stepped up and dealt with immigration ascros its southern border -- across its southern border like countries of southern america. we've seen that manifested in the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who come from -- come from central america across mexico into the united states and ended up on our doorstep. but mexico has worked with us to try to stem that flow of illegal immigration from central america. and then we've worked together to try to help make sure that our border is not an easy target for terrorists and other bad actors seeking entry to our country. there's no doubt that these
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shared challenges are just that, challenging. but we should be crystal clear to all of us -- but what should be crystal clear to all of us is we can't address them without working with mexico. we can't ignore it. as i said earlier, we can't get a divorce. we've got to work this out because we are -- our futures are joined together in many important respects. and so that's why i say the success of the united states depends in part on mexico's success. and we should diligently look for ways to grow that partnership for the good of both countries. one practical way we can do that is by confirming a u.s. ambassador to represent us in mexico city. roberta jacobson was nominated last summer and i believe she's qualified to represent us in this key relationship. our bi lateral relationship is simply too important to the people of texas and to the
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people of the united states to leave this position unfilled. we have to get somebody representing the united states in mexico city to advocate on behalf of the united states for all of the reasons i mentioned earlier: trade, security, immigration. otherwise i don't think we're going to be able to make the kind of progress we all would like to see, and we certainly can't afford to let our relationship with mexico go stagnant. that's one of the risks of not having an ambassador there. so i was really glad to hear my friend, the junior senator from florida call the u.s.-mexico relationship one of the most important ones we have. he said that yesterday on the floor. and i share his optimism that this impasse over the nomination or the confirmation, i should say, of miss jacobson can be resolved soon. i certainly think it's time we come together to move her
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nomination forward. here in the waning days of the obama administration, it's very important that we have this important ambassadorship filled for all of the reasons i mentioned earlier. mr. president, i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. a senator: i ask that the quorum call be vish yated. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: i ask unanimous consent that all time in quorum calls until 12:00 noon be evenly divided it the two parties. the presiding officer:
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objection. mr. cotton: i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. alexander: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: mr. president, in a few minutes -- the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. alexander: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. alexander: mr. president, in a few minutes, we'll be voting on whether to end debate on the energy and water appropriation bill. let me -- most of what we have to say about it at this point is very good news. this is the first appropriations bill of the year. it's the earliest appropriations bill that has been acted on since 1974. if it goes through the regular order, it will be the first energy and appropriations bill it has since 2009. more than 80 senators have contributed policy suggestions and amendments to the bill on both sides of the aisle. in addition to that, on the floor, we have dealt with 18 amendments. now we're ready to end debate
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and move in our process toward a solution of the bill. final solution of the bill. i believe this bill was put on the floor because senator feinstein and i have a good history of working together, and the expectation is that we would find a way to do that. now, let me say the -- let me say the problem, and i will leave time for senator feinstein or the democratic leader or perhaps senator cotton or others who may want to say something. an issue has arisen over an amendment offered by senator cotton. he did that after the administration made an announcement over the weekend that it would be purchasing heavy water from iran. heavy water by itself is not much water -- it's just water. it's in drums. it doesn't hurt anybody. it's not dangerous. it's distilled water. and it's used primarily for two reasons. one, for scientific instruments.
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so we use it for fiber optics and -- and other scientific reasons. and it can be used to make plutonium. so it was a part of the agreement between the united states and iran. senator cotton -- and i will characterize his amendment with his permission -- sought to do two things. one was to say you couldn't use any appropriated funds for the year 2017, the one we're working on, to buy more heavy water from iran. the second thing he sought to do was to do something about putting iran into the business of selling heavy water, and what would the implications be about that for our own national security. remember, this is a decision by the u.s. department of energy that was announced over the weekend without any notification to the chairman of the foreign relations committee or to the intelligence committee or to the armed services committee, and so you have a united states senator who is on the ball and he says
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okay, this is an issue i'd like to do something about. our friends on the other side have raised objection, especially senator feinstein, for whom i have the greatest respect. so i ask today -- so i asked today in talking with the democratic leaders, could we nor cotton and see if he will modify his amendment in a way that might be acceptable so that we can go on with the appropriations process and not blow it up? it got blown up last year because in the committee we put on the clean water amendment, and instead of bringing it to the floor and voting on it and letting the president veto it and then bring it back, the democratic majority decided we just won't bring the bill to the floor. so this year i talked to all the democratic leaders. they wrote senator mcconnell a letter, we all agreed, let's try to have an appropriations process. and what they said to me was no controversial riders in committee. and so i went through my whole committee with senator feinstein and we persuaded many senators
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to leave their controversial amendments off the bill in committee and saying to them you can bring them up on the floor when they have 60 votes, and if you can get 60 votes, you can put it in the bill. and of course if the president of the united states doesn't like it, he can veto it. and then it takes 60 to override that. here we are in the early process in april moving ahead, and all of a sudden i understand the democratic plient is -- minority is going to block us from going forward because they don't like the cotton amendment. well, let me say this, mr. president, and then i will stop my remarks. i think senator cotton has acted responsibly. he has acted as soon as he knew about the department of energy policy. he has listened to the objections that were raised by the other side. he has amended his own bill. he has offered for it to be adopted by voice vote. he has offered for it to be voted on in 60 votes, and as i said he has modified it.
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he has taken out the part, completely taken out the part that would limit american businesses from getting export licenses to buy heavy water from iran. that's to be discussed at a later time. he has left in only the part that says you can't use 2017 money to buy heavy water from iran, but the department can use prior year appropriated money and it can use revolving fund money, it could buy all the heavy water iran has if this president or the next president wanted to. so i think that is a very reasonable step, and i would ask the democratic leader, the whip and senator feinstein, all of whom i worked with very well, for whom i have great respect, if they're determined to block the bill at noon, block it, but let's keep talking about this, because i think that this is the basic constitutional framework of our -- of our united states senate, to do our job on the appropriations.
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and senators should be allowed to offer germane amendments, and when confronted with an objection on the other side, if they say well, 60 votes or a voice vote or i'll modify my amendment, that ought to be respected and we should go ahead, and then if the president still feels at the end he wants to veto it, that's the way our process works. he vetoes it. if we don't do this, we're going to end up with an omnibus bill, too much spending, senators won't have a chance to participate in it, and then the president will have to veto it in an omnibus bill at the end of the year, and that's not the kind of process that earns the respect of the american people. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. reid: i have the deepest respect, without any question, for the senator from tennessee, who is my friend and of course senator feinstein is legendary already as a figure in
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democratic politics and the politics of this country. but i have some reservation, for lack of a better description, of my friend, the senior senator from tennessee, talking about the appropriation process. i have been on the -- i was on the appropriations committee from the first day i came to the senate, and i loved my service on that appropriations committee. but for the last eight years with president obama, the republicans have done everything they could to -- i'm trying to find a pleasant word -- to mess up the appropriation process, everything. everyone should know, of those that understand the senate, we didn't ask that there be cloture on a motion to proceed. we are as cooperative as we can be on everything that we have done during the time when we have been in the minority, which is more than a year now.
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so i would suggest to my friend cloture will not be invoked on this bill in two or three minutes. if there is some proposal that the republicans will want to come back with that's reasonable and doesn't have a poison pill in it, fine, we're willing to move forward on this. for someone to give me the statement, it's germane. the world is germane on this bill. i did this bill for 15 years, i did it. i know what this bill is, that's in this bill. just about everything is germane. there has been all kinds of defense stuff, it has all the energy and water. it is a big, big important bill. and this amendment by the senator from arkansas is nothing more than an effort to sidetrack the work we're doing here. and the republicans are in the majority. i hope that it doesn't last that long, but that's where we are. it's up to them to move this process forward.
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we have tried our best to cooperate. so i suggest to my friend from tennessee see what happens, come back this afternoon. we have said on many occasions in the last 24 hours, we'll vote on final passage of this bill right now as it stood before this amendment was offered. mr. cotton: mr. president? madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. cotton: i ask consent to speak for up to two minutes. the presiding officer: do i hear objections? is there objection? without objection. mr. cotton: madam president, as the senator from tennessee has said, the administration announced that they were purchasing heavy water from iran on friday night on the first legislative day back on monday, i proposed this amendment, which is germane to the bill and therefore entitled to a simple majority threshold vote. i have offered to give a voice vote to the democrats so they
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don't have a record vote. i have offered to put it at a 60-vote threshold because there are 60 senators who do not believe that the united states taxpayers should be subsidizing iran's heavy water industry. this morning, the senator from tennessee said i offered to revise my amendment, yet here we are, the democrats are going to vote no on cloture, objecting to an amendment that is not pending and is not included in this legislation. i, too, do not want to see the appropriations process end. i want to pass this bill. i want to move on to the next appropriations bill. and i'm committed to continue to working in good faith with the senator from tennessee and the senator from california to try to reach some solution, whether on this bill or any other, that we can move forward in an orderly fashion and pass all of our appropriations bills, as well as ensure that the united states taxpayer is not subsidizing a critical component of iran's nuclear industry, which i would add we are not required to do under the nuclear
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agreement with iran. i yield the floor. mrs. feinstein: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. feinstein: madam president, may i speak for three minutes prior to the cloture vote? the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mrs. feinstein: thank you very much, madam president. we have the democratic leader on the floor and the chairman of the energy and water appropriations subcommittee. i want him particularly to know how very much it has meant for me to work with him to try to reverse an order of deterioration of this body. and that order of deterioration was the inability to pass an appropriations bill on its own and go back to what's called regular order. i've watched the appropriations committee l

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